The Tully Monster



Tully monster' mystery is far from solved, group argues

The Tully Monster was discovered in a fossil brought to the Field Museum in Chicago for identification. Museum staff are often called on to identify things for the public, a species of insect, or in this case, a fossil. 

Museums like to maintain good relations with the public, and sometimes amateur paleontologists discover something new. That was the case with this fossil. It was found in the Mazon Creek fossil area in Illinois in 1955 by J. Francis Tully, an amateur fossil collector. It was in a concretion, a fossil with mineral layers around it—think a small hotdog in a very large bun. 

Collectors commonly split concretions to see what might be inside. The Tully Monster was inside this one. Imagine a creature about six inches long. Most of the creature’s body is something like a lobster tail, with a sort of elephant-like trunk at the front. The trunk has a mouth and teeth. Halfway along the body there is on each side a straight projection. It looks like toothpicks stuck in each side. At the end of the toothpick are little globes that might have been eyes.

The fossil puzzled the Field Museum paleontologists. It turned out to be common. They named the fossil Tullimonstrum gregarium, or Tully’s Common Monster. Mr. Tully has achieved the dream of every amateur fossil collector, a kind of immortalization in the scientific name of the fossil he discovered.

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